FORWARD LOOK | BEYOND THE NEWS
Inflammation Markers Found in Normal-Weight
Women with Breast Cancer
Obesity causes a type of inflammation associated with
increased breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women.
A new study found that some normal-weight women
with breast cancer have inflammation markers in their
breasts typically seen in obese breast cancer patients.
The findings suggest some normal-weight women’s
breast cancers could be caused by mechanisms similar
to those identified in obese women. In addition, some
normal-weight women may, like obese women, have a
higher risk for recurrence.
LEARN MORE IN THE APRIL 2017 CANCER
Q&A WITH MOLECULAR BIOLOGIST JAMES
DEGREGORI ON CANCER DEVELOPMENT
The Evolution of Cancer
When explaining the development of cancer, scientists typically say something like: Cancer cells are normal cells that have acquired mutations that
cause them to grow out of control.
James DeGregori, a molecular biologist at the University of Colorado
School of Medicine in Aurora, doesn’t think that explanation tells the
whole story. He and his colleagues have introduced a new model for how
cancer develops. This model, called adaptive oncogenesis, views cancer
through an evolutionary biology lens. From this perspective, the tissue
that surrounds cells—their microenvironment—is as significant to cancer’s
development as the mutations in the cells. Cancer-causing factors like
smoking, radiation, diet and aging can alter the microenvironment.
DeGregori believes the ways these tissues change create an environment
that favors the growth of cells with cancer-causing mutations.
Cancer Today spoke with DeGregori about how this hypothesis could
lead to new insights into cancer prevention and treatment.
Q: What role do you think mutations play in cancer development?
A: The idea that mutations cause cancer is still the paradigm in the field. But
we’ve estimated that by the time you are 18, your cells have half of all the mutations that you will ever have. That’s because it takes more cell division [for
you] to grow than to maintain your growth, and each time cells divide, there is
a chance for a mutation to occur. So, if we have so many mutations by age 18,